Andrew Yang’s Problematic Reinforcement of the Model Minority Myth

Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang at the Sept 12 Democratic primary debate in Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. (Photo Credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Tonight, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Andrew Yang joined the nine other top Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage at Texas Southern University. A noteworthy moment for Asian Americans, Yang remains one of the first Asian Americans in history to run a national campaign for the presidency.

That’s why it is all the more problematic that Yang routinely leans upon Model Minority stereotypes of Asian Americans to advance his candidacy. As early as last year, Yang routinely framed himself as qualified to be president because he is a “smart Asian” who is “good at math” — a classic Model Minority trope reminiscent of the infamous Time magazine cover that popularized model minority stereotypes for a generation of Americans. Tonight, Yang invoked a different facet of the Model Minority Myth when he quipped in response to a question on healthcare that “I am Asian, so I know a lot of doctors.

The Model Minority Myth has stood at the root of a good deal of anti-Asian racism and oppression. Yet, Yang is unconcerned by the many ways that the Model Minority Myth hurts Asian Americans and other people of colour. Instead, Yang sees Model Minority caricatures of Asian Americans as something to lean into and to laugh at, and he even sells math-branded Yang swag in his campaign store.

I can’t but wonder if Andrew Yang sees Model Minority stereotypes as a joke, then who’s really laughing with him?

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